How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results

How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results, by Kirsten Grind.

Every minute, an estimated 3.8 million queries are typed into Google, prompting its algorithms to spit out results for hotel rates or breast-cancer treatments or the latest news about President Trump.

They are arguably the most powerful lines of computer code in the global economy, controlling how much of the world accesses information found on the internet, and the starting point for billions of dollars of commerce.

Twenty years ago, Google founders began building a goliath on the premise that its search algorithms could do a better job combing the web for useful information than humans. Google executives have said repeatedly — in private meetings with outside groups and in congressional testimony — that the algorithms are objective and essentially autonomous, unsullied by human biases or business considerations….

Google went over to the dark side:

Over time, Google has increasingly re-engineered and interfered with search results to a far greater degree than the company and its executives have acknowledged, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

Those actions often come in response to pressure from businesses, outside interest groups and governments around the world. They have increased sharply since the 2016 election and the rise of online misinformation, the Journal found. …

Google’s evolving approach marks a shift from its founding philosophy of “organizing the world’s information,” to one that is far more active in deciding how that information should appear.

More than 100 interviews and the Journal’s own testing of Google’s search results reveal:

  • Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones
  • Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called “knowledge panels” and “featured snippets,” and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.
  • Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results. These moves are separate from those that block sites as required by U.S. or foreign law, such as those featuring child abuse or with copyright infringement, and from changes designed to demote spam sites, which attempt to game the system to appear higher in results. …
  • To evaluate its search results, Google employs thousands of low-paid contractors whose purpose the company says is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. Even so, contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.

Google down-ranked climate skeptics websites from about 2011. When it becomes well known that there is an error in all the climate models that was there right from their inception, that the carbon dioxide theory of global warming is a result of that error, and when the world cools again — what then Google? Google will have caused a great deal of harm to the world by shielding people from evidence that the theory was wrong, so they are culpable. The world will not be pleased at having been tricked and misled.

hat-tip Chris